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tv   Religion Ethics Newsweekly  PBS  December 11, 2011 10:00am-10:30am PST

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coming up, this thanksgiving weekend, feeding the hungry in the u.s. and overseas. and why some potential donors do not help those who are suffering far away. >> they don't believe that either change is possible there or that their money, their resources, what they give, will actually translate to something different on the ground. plus, a dynamic doctor in south carolina helping everyone. >> major funding for religion and ethics news weekly is provided by the lily endowment, an indianapolis-based family foundation dedicated to founders
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in christian religion, community development and education. funding provided by mutual of america, designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we are your retirement company. the estate of william j carter, the jane henson foundation and the corporation for public broadcasting. >> welcome, i'm bob abernethy. it's good to have you with us, this weekend after thanksgiving and this season of coughs and colds. faith-based groups were among the many expressing frustration at the congressional supercommittee's failure to come up with a debt reduction plan by this week's deadline. in washington, an interreligious coalition held what it called a "super- vigil" to pray that lawmakers would protect programs that help the poor in this country and around the world. the group said the nation's most vulnerable could be harmed by several congressional votes still ahead. >> jesus and the prophets, this is the vision. they said do not afflict the
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poor and comfort the rich. but you tell me what's happening up there? meanwhile, several religious conservatives this week warned against any deal that would include tax increases. a new survey shows there has been a dramatic increase in the number of religious groups that lobby congress. according to the pew forum on religion and public life, there were about 40 faith-based lobby and advocacy groups in washington in 1970. today there are more than 200. these groups adess domestic and international issues, among them the separation of church and state, abortion and marriage issues, and global poverty. they spend nearly $400 million a year combined. aipac, the pro-israel lobby, spends the most, followed by the u.s. conference of catholic bishops. one important lobby is the christian group, bread for the
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world, which fights hunger here and abroad. reverend david beckmann, a lutheran pastor, is president of bread for the world. david, welcome. >> thank you. >> bring us up to date, how many hungry people are there in the united states? >> it's now one in seven americans who lives in a household that runs out of food. >> runs out of food what? each month or? >> the typical pattern is the last two or three days of the month, people run out of food. so the kids may not eat for the last couple days, the mom may not eat for four days, it's one in four children under the age of 5 who lives in one of those households and that kind of moderate under nutrition does permanent damage to children. >> now the supercommittee in congress failed this week to come up with any plan about the long term control of the deficit. what does that mean for you and the people who are trying to fight hunger?
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there was to be an across the board cut that was gonna kick in if there was this failure. is it going to kick in and if so what does that mean for hungry people? >> well, bread for the world and other faith groups have been fighting for a circle of protection around funding for hungry and poor people because we can reduce deficit spending without making hungry people hungrier. and we were able to secure in the budget control act that established the supercommittee and these automatic cuts a provision that will exempt some of the low income programs from cuts if those automatic cuts go into effect. so i would have liked to see the supercommittee reach a deal but the automatic cuts aren't necessarily a disaster for poor people. >> because of the exemption? >> yeah, and because people of faith pushed for it. >> what about overseas? what's going on there with american food aid? >> well, we were terrified earlier this year because the house of representatives voted
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on a deep cut in food aid. their cut would have thrown 14 million of the world's most desperate people off food aid rations this year. so we really sounded an alarm about that, we talked to mr. boehner's office, we talked to the president himself and in the final bill which passed this week they backed away from that really disastrous cut for hungry people. >> a few weeks ago we heard that there were 7 billion people on earth and the forecast was this would be going up to 9 billion by 2050. can all those people be fed? >> well, i think we need to curtail population growth, but those people can be fed, and the key is an expansion of the productivity of poor farmers in poor countries.
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they can grow more to feed their own families, to raise their incomes. that's where the food will come from for poor countries. >> you mean rather than have it grown here and shipped someplace else? >> i think expanding demand for food will also be good for us agriculture but the bulk of the supply needs to come from the expansion of poor country, poor farmer agriculture. >> and this week you came out with a proposal to change the system between the government and farmers in this country. what do you want to do? >> well, we think it's possible to develop a system that would be better for farmers especially small medium scale farms, fruit and vegetable growers, better for hungry people, better for a healthy food supply and that would cost the government less money. so this is an area where we want to support cuts but we don't want the cuts to come from the
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nutrition assistance to poor people that's included in the farm bill. on all these things basically we have to create the political will to overcome hunger. when we've had that political will to reduce poverty we've been able to do it in our country, and that's what we need to mobilize now. >> if all the federal aid for hunger, to prevent hunger, went away, could private charities pick up the slack? >> no, absolutely not. people think that but in fact all the food that we collect from all the churches and synagogues in the country, all the food banks, it's important but it all amounts to 6% of the food that poor people get from the federal food programs. that's food stamps, school lunches, wic. so if congress decides to cut the federal food programs by 6%,
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12%, there's no way that churches and charities can pick up the gap. we need to also get our government to do its part to end hunger. >> david beckmann of bread for the world, many thanks. in the horn of africa, on its east coast, 500,000 hungry refugees from somalia fled this year into neighboring kenya. now, because of fighting there, they are escaping into ethiopia, where fred de sam lazaro found some of them earlier this month. here is his report on the disaster that refuses to go away and some people in minnesota trying to help. fred begins in east africa. >> it's here at the ethiopia- somali border that some 400 refugees arrive every single day, most of them women and children, most of them fleeing not just famine, but fighting. so far this year, 135,000 mostly women and children have
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registered here in this harsh but promised land for refugees. they have suffered for months and walked for days to get here. there's food and some basic medical care, just barely enough. >> i think it's important to point out that the emergency's not over. it's ongoing. we continue to see people coming and these people are living here in camps and they are in great need of humanitarian assistance. >> for humanitarian agencies, the challenge is to sustain the supply pipeline and keep the attention in donor countries focused on this remote region that's seen hunger and conflict for decades. it's an ongoing, perennial and at least partially man-made disaster. in the minds of donors, that's very different from sudden disasters, says mike lloyd. he heads a minnesota-based group called kids against hunger. >> when the earthquake struck in haiti, there was a tremendous outpouring for that event. it went on for several months. we had groups all over country
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wanting to pack meals, and it was a real scramble for us to meet that demand. of course, donor dollars followed that demand for packaging the meals. when the joplin tornado happened, of course we had a similar experience. >> this year, kids against hunger volunteers will pack some 50 million ready-to-mix meals to be sent to needy regions around the world. lloyd says the response to the crisis in east africa has been much smaller. >> situations like we see in the horn of africa are long term, they are political, at least partly political, they're somewhat related to the drought situation but it's been a long term political struggle in those areas and that has not excited the packers and the donors in the same way. >> it's not so much about compassion fatigue. i think people are as compassionate today as they ever have been. for us, it's actually more a belief fatigue.
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>> daniel wordsworth heads another minnesota-based group, the american refugee committee. arc also saw a huge response to the haiti earthquake. but support for pakistan, hit by massive floods a few months later, was far weaker. initially, wordsworth says, there also was indifference toward the horn of africa. >> i think what we see in both pakistan, and we're seeing it very strongly in somalia, is that, and it really is almost confronting to us, is the lack of belief that people have for that country. so it's not that they don't feel compassionate. they just can't make the connection. they don't believe that either change is possible there or that their money, or their resources, what they give, will actually translate into something different on the ground. that's the crisis that we're seeing. >> wordsworth says it's the deeds of one percent of the population that have given pakistan and somalia their reputation as hostile terrorist havens.
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so in its fundraising campaigns for somalia, the american refugee committee has tried to "de- fang" somalia's image, drawing heavily on the fact that the largest somali- american community is right in its home base in minneapolis. >> our doctors may be somali, our local business professionals somali, our taxi drivers somali. we actually get to meet the 99% on a regular basis. >> hi, i am a star. >> somali-minnesotans, prominent and otherwise, have led a varied media campaign, drawing in the larger local community. >> we hosted a charity dinner. >> i'm a star beuse i donated money that i earned from a car wash. >> i organized an art show. >> i collected pennies for somalia. >> it's a whole different side of somali culture that people don't normally see. and then through, i think, that lens, you can see a dynamic, amazing group of people and your ability then to believe that if this country is full of people like this, there's huge hope for
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that country. >> is it working? >> it's working really well for us. >> how do you know? >> actually we are seeing the same outpouring of compassion that we saw for haiti. i think we will be one of the very few organizations in the world that can say that, that we're tracking about the same. >> in response to crises, donors fall into two distinct categories, according to mike lloyd. he says grassroots campaigns and images of suffering are less effective with large donors and philanthropists than they are with individual givers. >> those gifts are given from the heart. they really react to the emotional sense that they're making a difference in the individual's life. and when we talk to corporate gers or large donors, their dollars are usually more intended, in their minds at least, the things that are going to have lasting impact. so they're less likely to be driven by the emotional aspect of having an impact on an individual and what's going to happen to my dollars. are these going to really change anything or is it just going to
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be the same after the dollars are gone? >> the american refugee committee says it has gotten some major corporate donations, most likely because they're local, says wordsworth. >> groups like best buy, general mills, the mosaic company, u-care, a health insurance provider. because they've got somali staff, they can see it more quickly and then the rest of the staff and the rest of the company comes around behind them and shows some solidarity. >> arc has used its donations to run a hospital in the somali capital, mogadishu. the recession at home has not hurt contributions. the group says people tend to be more sympathetic and responsive in tough times. larger donors, though, need more convincing that their dollars, should they contribute, will bring enduring change over the long term in addition to easing the immediate suffering. for "religion and ethics newsweekly," this is fred de sam lazaro in minneapolis.
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in other news, republican presidential hopefuls continue their outreach to religious voters. in iowa, six of the candidates took the stage last week at an event called the thanksgiving family forum. the event was hosted by a conservative religious group and took place in a des moines church. the candidates were asked questions about their faith and several spoke of struggles in their personal lives. mitt romney and jon huntsman did not attend. a pew research center poll conducted november 9th to 14th, showed white evangelical republicans favoring herman cain over newt gingrich and mitt romney. but, romney led among white mainline protestant republicans. both groups, however, overwhelming preferred mitt romney to barack obama. 91% of white evangelical republicans said they would vote for romney over obama.
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the poll also found that half of all americans say they know little or nothing about mormonism, romney's faith. cardinal bernard law has retired as head of an important basilica in rome. in 2002, law resigned as the archbishop of boston over allegations that he mishandled the sex abuse crisis. he became archpriest of the basilica of st. mary major in 2004. many victims' rights groups criticized pope john paul ii for naming law to that prominent position. now, a lucky severson story about a phenomenally energetic doctor, brenda williams and her husband joe in south carolina. they have run a clinic for poor people for more than a generation. and that's just the beginning. they do a prison ministry, fix up and give away houses, get people back to school, do voter registration and on and on.
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>> god is a good god, yes he is. god is a good god, yes he is. one more time. >> this is the medium security pod at the detention center in sumter, south carolina, and this is dr. brenda williams, all four feet, eleven inches of her. >> okay, now listen up. what were going to do is this. a couple of things, then we're gonna go on, 'cause i am a very short-winded person. >> she says she was afraid to talk in public until the teacher made her give an oral report in 7th grade. her husband, dr. joe williams, says that was just the beginning. >> she was talking when i first saw her and she's continued to talk since then. >> talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. that's all some folks do. we do more than talk. we back up our talk. i called mr. mathews and said, "hi, my name is brenda williams," blah, blah, blah, and he said, "i know about you. you don't have to give me an introduction."
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>> few in sumter would deny that dr. brenda williams is a force of nature, or that her husband dr. joe is the calm in the eye of the storm. she's a general practitioner. he's an internist and geriatrician. they've run a clinic in this city of 100,000 for 30 years. no one is turned away. her latest project is called do right and the folks who agree to "do right" get on the list to get a free home. so far they've given away four. >> this is my dining room. i never had one of those before. >> it's a nice dining room. it's the first house patricia dunham has ever owned. for her and her husband and three kids, it's a dream come true. it may be comfortable now but it wasn't when the doctor found it. >> the house had a porch that was falling in. it had 59 broken window panes. all of the wiring was stripped of copper. the plumbing stuff was missing. the houses are not just given, "given" to the families, they have to work for it. they have to earn it.
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>> i do community service, clean up paper, go to church, be active in my kid's schooling, come to the meetings once a month, basically easy stuff that's not hard to do to get a free home, and i thank you very much. >> the cost of fixing-up these fixer-uppers comes out of the williams pockets. they receive no outside funding. but they're not pushovers. people who don't follow the rules don't get a home. >> the do right families have to do at least four hours of community service a week. the do right families have to turn in a church program. the pastor or the leader of the religious organization has to sign that program and date it. i want a written report, not an oral report, it has to be in writing. >> you're pretty tough. >> yes, i know. >> nick mccormac is a staff writer for sumter's newspaper the item. he's covered dr. williams.
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>> she doesn't want people to take things for granted, basically. she wants them to earn it. it's to give them that empowerment, to make them proud of themselves, to build themselves up so they can go on and own their house or be a voter and be engaged and have that pride that comes along with those kind of things. >> it's demanded that the recipients of that free home go back to school and get a high school diploma if they haven't graduated from high school. it's mandatory. >> patricia got her high school diploma. now she's attending college, and she has her own home. >> it feels so good when i go pay my taxes in january. >> linda prince earned her new home by following the rules, which includes cleaning up litter in the neighborhood. >> the neighborhood is improving and you know one thing, we ran the drug dealers away. okay, there might still be one or two hanging around somewhere, but there was a house not too far from here, by the way, that was all the time frequented by drug dealers, and they're gone now.
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>> i for one believe that this is the best country in the world. i believe that we all have to figure out a way to make it better. >> it's a calling for them, making things better, a way to pay back for their good fortune. both are deeply religious. he is a united methodist. she belongs to an apostolic church. >> and we all know that he loves us. >> she says she gets her inspiration from the good book, from scriptures like the 41st psalm, verse one. >> blessed are ye who consider the poor for the lord will deliver you in your days of trouble. >> there's a large portion of our community, the so-called underclass, that seem to be mired i poverty. and really, as i tell my wife all the time, those are the people i'm really concerned about. >> for them, the core of the problem facing the african-american community is the break up of the family.
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>> we have problems with men and women not getting together and getting married, or breaking apart in terms of the family, that we really feel very discouraged about. >> makesha kennedy is an exception. she and her husband were married ten years ago after the williams prodded them and other couples to tie the knot. makesha has three children, getting good grades, with a father at home. she now works at the doctor's office. so does amanda elizabeth wolf. she met dr. brenda, as the staff calls her, when she was in jail a year ago. >> i mean, we've come a long ways, and you know, i have to give number one credit to god, but if it weren't for dr. brenda and dr. joe, i wouldn't be blessed with this house right now. >> amanda is now a member of what is known as the do right crew, mostly former inmates who meet with the do right kids, youngsters dr. brenda has recruited, to do community service and talk about the problems of growing up.
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>> you know whenever i do, i guess, want to relapse or think about going back to my old ways, i think, you know, well i'm accountability to the do right kids, you know. and i don't want to have to go to them and say, "hey, listen, i screwed up, i'm back in jail." >> i need you to sign up. here's lime-green paper, it says do right, do right, do right. if you're part of the do right crew, there's so many benefits that come along with being part of the do right crew. >> even these prisoners are eligible for a free home, and she'll help with a job too, if they "do right." >> i'll do everything i can to find you a job. i can't promise you that job will come but i'll sure do my doggone best to help you get a job. >> the director of the detention center says he had to turn the lights out late one night to get her to go home, but he's glad she comes. >> she's very encouraging, but not only that now, there's another population that she talks to also, as she speaks with the inmates, our officers get to hear that same
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encouraging word. >> and then she gets to her most passionate cause right now, registering pre-trial inmates to vote. >> your vote is just as powerful as donald trump's vote. your vote is just as powerful as president barack obama's vote. your vote is just as powerful as oprah winfrey's vote. your vote is just as powerful as bill gates' vote. they're billionaires. you have power. >> before she was done, most of the men signed up to register to vote. it's not an easy process in south carolina. >> i'll bet your momma has your birth certificate. you all come and give us a hug, we love you now. the bible says that many are called but few are chosen. but i truly believe that he chooses certain individuals to do his tough stuff. >> thank you jesus. >> for "religion and ethics newsweekly," i'm lucky severson at the sumter lee regional detention center in south carolina. finally, on our calendar the
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season of advent begins on sunday for western christians and for some branches of eastern orthodoxy. it's a four-week period of spiritual preparation for christmas. also this weekend, the catholic church begins using its new and controversial translation of the roman missal. and for muslims, this weekend is the start of their new year, the time when the prophet mohammad and his followers migrated from mecca to medina in the year 622. that's our program for now. i'm bob abernethy. you can follow us on twitter and facebook, find us on youtube, and watch us anytime, anywhere on smart phones and iphones. there's also much more on our web site. you can comment on all of our stories and share them. audio and video podcasts are also available. join us at as we leave you, bernice johnson reagon performs at last
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weekend's prayer vigil in washington for the poor and hungry. . >> major funding for religion and ethics news weekly is provided by the lily endowment, a family foundations dedicated to religion, community development and education. additional funding provided by mutual of america, designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we are your retirement company. the estate of william jane carter and the jane henson foundation and corporation for public broadcasting.
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